Gratitude in all its Disguises
Gratitude in all its Disguises
Nearly every day for a year, I shared a gratitude list with a dear friend. A gratitude list, with a twist…
We don't force ourselves to find positive things for our list. We include everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Today I am grateful:
...for my Mom’s descent into dementia and my fear that the clock in my own head is ticking
...for how much I have on my plate to do
...for the inertia that comes with being overwhelmed
…for forgetting to brush my teeth this morning
...for having my youngest daughter home for the holidays, and waiting for my oldest to get here
My gratitude partner's list is a similar accumulation of the ups and downs of her everyday life. This is certainly not an exercise in forcing ourselves into believing a litany of shallow polyanna appreciations.
This is an act of declaring that it is all perfect, even when it's bad. Even when it sucks. Even when we are stuck and ashamed and want to hide.
And, yes, even when it is exquisitely good. So good you don't want to jinx it. So good you're afraid to enjoy it. So good, you feel compelled to fuck it up.
It is also an exercise in allowing each other to be right where we are. No fixing. No advice. We are forbidden to comment on each other's list, and for the most part, we've honored that rule faithfully.
Some days, I can barely stand to write my list. Especially when I have written the same damn thing over and over and I feel stuck. Or I've outed myself in some way.
Admitting that procrastination won the day. Sharing an insecurity I'm embarrassed to admit. Confessing a medical concern I'm afraid to say out loud.
I am sure my gratitude partner has felt the same way. Many times.
Still, we stick with this practice. Every day.
We call it Project Miracle, after this book we read that suggested this daily act would invite miracles into our lives. At the time we began, we both felt it would take a miracle to realize these big dreams we had.
Both of us were on the verge of success in our respective careers - but we were also both prone to engage in self-destructive patterns that always seemed to foil us in the final hour and set us back. We each had relationship patterns we wanted to change.
And we felt like we were always pushing the boulder up the hill...and living in fear that it was going to roll back on us any minute.
But on some primal level, we needed to be seen. We needed one other person to witness us. When we were joyous. When we were despondent. When we were finally ready to celebrate.
I can honestly say, we have witnessed miracles in each other. We have found true gratitude, hiding in unexpected places. We have faced ourselves in the harsh light of daily repetition and found a way not to run from the mirror. We have reconciled ourselves to character flaws in ourselves and others. We have found grace and forgiveness. We have overcome family and cultural conditioning. We have dared speak our inner political incorrectness.
We have been ugly. And beautiful. But mostly, we have found a place to - authentically - be grateful for all of it. So much so that my definition of miracles, even. From a belief in rainbows and unicorns, to a deep understanding that we live wrapped in profound mystery. A mystery we unpack everyday, and put away every night. That the fabric of our lives are imbued with miracles. And our only job is to see them.
The older I get, the more I realize that the only function of holidays is to give us a taste of what every day could be like.
Sure, the festivities are fabulous. The food, the communing with friends. The parades and ball games. The absence of work. Or maybe, the annual practice of exercising tolerance among family. The exchange of grace. The gritting of teeth. The muttering under your breath.